Thursday 23 November 2017

Defiant Taoiseach faces down backbench rebels

Fiach Kelly and Michael Brennan

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night faced down rebel backbenchers by telling them he was determined to stick it out as party leader.

He made a speech at the three-and-a-half hour Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting last night, which featured several TDs calling on him to resign.

But all the TDs present accepted that Mr Cowen had to get the Budget through on December 7, even those who said he should resign.

The meeting also heard some criticism of the Green Party's sudden decision to call for a general election in January. Cabinet ministers such as Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said it was disappointing the way the party had carried out its business.

One former Cowen-supporting TD said it was the "usual few" who spoke out.

"There was nobody unexpected," he said.


TDs who publicly called for Mr Cowen to step down in recent days made their views known to him again at the meeting.

They included Dublin South East TD Chris Andrews, Cork North Central TD Noel O'Flynn, Carlow Kilkenny TD John McGuinness, Kildare South TD Sean Power and Dublin South TD Tom Kitt.

Despite the dissent, the party passed a motion proposed by Meath East TD Thomas Byrne calling for the Budget and the four-year plan to be supported -- with only Noel O'Flynn failing to support it.

But Mr Cowen's future as party leader after the Budget vote remains in doubt following the meeting.

Fianna Fail Longford Westmeath TD Mary O'Rourke called for a special party meeting in January to discuss the leadership issue -- and said it should happen in the first three days of the New Year.

Another party backbencher said last night that he expected Mr Cowen to step down when the general election was called.

Mr Cowen had initially spoken to indicate that it was an open meeting and he would listen to everybody's contribution. He stressed the need for political stability.

But he was told by rebel backbencher Chris Andrews that it was equally important to "bring people along with you".

Irish Independent

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